How to Get the Most
Out of E-Mail Lists
There are thousands of e-mail list out there on every subject you can imagine, and probably on a
few you can’t and wouldn’t want to imagine. No matter what kind of writing you do, you can bet
there are a number of lists just for that genre, or even sub genre. These on-line communities help
you stay in close contact with other writers, and sometimes readers. That can mean even more to
writers like myself, who live in small towns were they are no local writing groups. Many lists allow
members to pass on market news, take part in weekly writing or discussion prompts, ask
questions, do brain storming on stories, or even share the sadness of a rejection or the thrill of
seeing your work in print.

You can find plenty of e-mail lists to get you started by using your favorite search engine and typing
in something like writing mailing list directory or e-mail writing list. You can narrow your search field
by adding in a key word, such as horror, freelance, or romance. Another way to locate lists is to ask
other writers, or to check out links on writing websites.

Once you find a list you are interested in, there are a few things you can do to fit in and get the most
out of the e-mail list experience.   

1) Read the welcome message. Really read the welcome message. In it you should find the
information on how to send in messages, what topics the list covers, how to change your mail
settings, and most importantly, the rules for the e-mail list.

2) Know that every list doesn’t fit every person. Some lists are really active, with forty or more
messages popping into your inbox each day from them. Others don’t generate that many posts in a
month. Some lists allow social chitchat, some stick strictly to writing topics in the genre of the list.
There are list that are closely monitored, and others where you are kind of on your own. It’s best to
join a few lists, and then stay with the ones that are a good fit for you.

3) Once you start participating, follow those rules you read in the welcome message. Also use
Internet etiquette, like trimming post when you reply on list, thinking twice before you type an angry
response, using the subject line correctly, placing your name and e-mail address at the bottom of
messages for those who might wish to answer off list, and taking the time to send a thanks when
someone answers a question you asked.  

4) Don’t allow mail volume to overwhelm you. If there are too many messages from a list you would
really hate to leave, try using topic filters if they are offered, or setting your mail to daily digest,
which means you get all of the messages, but they come in together in groups. You can quickly
scan the digest and dump the whole thing if the subject lines don’t draw your interest. If you are
dealing with a tight writing deadline, you can even change to no mail, or website only mail.

5) Don’t get lost in all of the e-mail from your lists. All of those messages can be as tempting as a
wrapped Christmas present you aren’t supposed to open. It’s too easy to get lost in your e-mail.
The next thing you know hours have gone by and you haven’t done any writing at all--at least none
other than e-mail. If you want to start off with e-mail before writing, set aside a certain amount of
time for handling new messages. When the time is up, close your e-mail program, disconnect, and
get to work. Some people even find it better to do their writing first. They set a goal on finishing an
article, or writing so many pages on their novel, and then the reward is e-mail after the goal is

6) Keep things organized. Your inbox can become something worse than that end of the closet that
catches everything that has no place else to go. The key to preventing this is folders. I have set up a
number of folders in my e-mail program. They are named titles like Freelance Markets, Research,
Writing, Ideas, Writing Contests, Critiques, and Agents. This makes it quick and easy for me to
store links or info that I want to look over later. It also makes it quick and easy to find those
messages again.

E-mail lists can be wonderful tools for writers, but learning to use any tool in the most effective way
can take a little time, and a little trial and error. When you find the right list though, I think you’ll feel it
was worth the effort.

                                                        Charlotte Dillon  ~
Copyrighted in 2002 by Charlotte Dillon
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